We discuss Clement's endgame, where the Gnostic encounters god face-to-face after a lengthy transformative evolution into higher and higher spiritual forms. Things get seriously esoteric.
Podcast Episodes Themed "Esoteric Christianity"
In the first of a two-part episode, we read through Book V of Clement's Stromateis, which contains, among other things, perhaps the fullest surviving exposition on types of esoteric discourse from antiquity. Come for the ainigmata and symbola, stay for Abraham the astrologer.
Clement stays esoteric. We examine the esoteric wisdom-lineages constructed by Clement, how he reads them, in the context of how he hides his reading of them. Plus, there seems to have been some genuine, contemporary esotericism going on in early Christianity.
We explore the esoteric writing methodologies of Clement's Stromateis – the innovative ‘public secrecy’, the reasons for Clement's esotericism, and the evocation of the mysteries and of the ineffable as aspects of esoteric rhetoric.
The surviving oeuvre of Clement of Alexandria hides some complicated textual issues. In this episode, not for the fainthearted, we discuss the various lost works, fragments, and alleged forgeries.
We introduce the life and thought of Orthodox Christianity's favourite in-house Gnostic, the great Clement of Alexandria. Come for the philosophical, esoteric Christianity, stay for the progressive postmortem deification.
Episode 84: Other Gospels and Alien Gods: Marcion of Sinope
We look at Marcion of Sinope, the final arch-heretic in our ‘unholy trinity’. Marcion compiled the first Christian textual canon – he wrote the first Bible – but this was not your grandma's Bible. Demiurgy, transcendence, and some interesting questions of textual hermeneutics abound.
In a further conversation with Geoffrey Smith we try to imagine what Valentinus' circle at Rome might have looked like, we discuss the esoteric in early Christianity, and we delve into the further horizons of future research on Valentinianism.
Episode 83: Geoffrey Smith on Valentinus and Valentinianism
Under the expert guidance of Geoffrey Smith, we explore the world-view of Valentinus – an elite intellectual Christian thinker of the second century – and his legacy – a reputation for the blackest heresy and a demiurgical Christian movement known nowadays as Valentinianism.
Basilides of Alexandria, one of the first Christian philosophers and scriptural exegetes, is known as one of the great Gnostic heresiarchs of the second century. But what did he actually teach? It's mind-blowing and it's esoteric.
We examine the Ascension of Isaiah, an important Jewish-Christian apocalypse of the second century with a long history in later esoteric Christianities. The text gives us important insights into the struggles within the early church for authority between visionary, prophetic inspiration and hierarchical canonicity, and the ways in which the early church dealt with the inconvenient fact that the Rapture hadn't happened according to schedule. It also presents a deluxe terrain of angelic palaces and thrones, themes of descent and ascent, and some juicy details relating to ascent as a spiritual practice in antiquity.
We get deeper into the whole question of ‘What's so esoteric about the Gnostics and other esoteric groupings within early Christianity?’, and argue that the esoteric is always there within Christianity. Irenæus was right, heresy is permanent. And that's a good thing.
We take a deep breath before diving into detailed discussions of early esoteric Christianities to consider a few key terms and their historical development. What was orthodoxy? What was heresy? Who were the heresiologists, and what were they doing?
We put a number of impossible-to-answer questions about ancient demiurgic traditions in proto-Christianity to Professor Williams, and receive some fascinating answers.
Professor Michael Williams leads us on a tour of ‘Gnosticism’, both as a term (used and misused by ancient heresiologists, Reformation-era polemicists, modern scholars, and even modern ‘Gnostics’) and as a group of late-ancient religious texts which are very, very interesting, but which should probably not be called ‘Gnostic’.
We turn to our most esoteric evangelist, John, and discuss his many writings, two of which – the Gospel and Apocalypse – have left an indelibly esoteric character on Christianity. Come for the logos-theology, stay from the Beast whose number is 666.
We discuss the crucial figure and thought of Paul, Jesus' weirdest apostle. Revelations, visions of cosmic ascent, exorcisms, divine mysteria, and a surprising amount of classically ‘Gnostic’ material abound.
In a three-part episode, we explore the writings known as the New Testament, looking for traces of the esoteric. As it turns out, this collection is full of promising material for developing an esoteric religious movement. We start with the Gospel of Mark and its theme of the ‘Messianic secret’.
Episode 58: Justin Rogers on Philo in Early Christianity
Justin Rogers guides us on a tour of the afterlife of Philo's work. How did the great Hellenistic Jewish thinker become a father of the Christian faith (and of Christian esoteric scriptural hermeneutics in particular)? We find out.
Episode 52: Enoch, Apocalyptic, and Abrahamic Faith
In this episode we explore further the amazing work 1 Enoch, taking in along the way ruminations on the history of the west, debates about the identity of the Enochic authors, and some hints as to the development of the Enochic tradition as a western esoteric ‘scripture’.